See those little balls of excess donut batter below. Those are called, “Dunkin’ Munchkins.” If you grew up in the Northeast, this knowledge is as common as where the Old North Church is located and what position Carlton Fisk played for the Red Sox. And it can all be traced back to one guy — a fellow named Steve Cosmopulos. In addition to being somewhat notorious for his temperamental nature and absurd work hours (4 a.m. to 4 p.m.), Steve, the second “C” in Hill, Holiday, Connors, Cosmopulos, was revered as New England’s first true creative powerhouse.
A couple weeks ago, I judged the 50th Anniversary of Boston’s Hatch Awards with him. At which point, I learned that I disagree with, well, pretty much all of Steve’s political viewpoints, but have tremendous respect for the dogged determination with which he built a number of brands, including Dunkin’ Donuts.
As Steve recalls, the way that Dunkin’ Munchkins came to be, was that in 1970, the agency was given the assignment of coming up with a new product. The only stipulation, they couldn’t use new materials or new machinery. Which kind of limits what you can do when all you’ve got left is batter and frosting. Steve noticed that there were a couple stores were selling donut holes made from the excess batter and immediately latched onto the idea. Within a matter of weeks, he and his team created and tested two commercials, one for Dunkin Donut Holes and the other for Dunkin’ Munchkins, in Harrisburg, PA and Portland, ME. The results were overwhelming: These little dough balls were not “holes,” they were “Munchkins.”
Why open my blog with the story of a guy who turned 83 yesterday? Well, because I maintain that the creation and naming of that Dunkin’ product is as big a business-building idea as any Facebook app or guerilla marketing stunt you’ll find online today. And that’s what I want this blog to be about — not just what’s new or cool, but what’s smart. And a product extension and naming idea that was powerful enough to endure forty years years of shelf life under harsh fluorescent lighting seems like a pretty good place to start.